The Tale of the Fox: Watch Ladislas Starevich’s Animation of Goethe’s Great German Folktale (1937)

Johann Wolf­gang von Goethe — the very name bespeaks lit­er­ary mas­tery of the widest range. Not only did this best-known of all eigh­teenth- and — nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Ger­man writ­ers reach into poet­ry, the nov­el, the mem­oir, auto­bi­og­ra­phy, crit­i­cism, sci­ence, phi­los­o­phy, and even pol­i­tics, but he did a bit of inter­pre­ta­tion of clas­sic folk­tales as well. The Faust and Sor­rows of Young Werther author wrote a par­tic­u­lar­ly last­ing ren­di­tion of the adven­tures of Rey­nard the Fox, a trick­ster from medieval Euro­pean myth. Had Goethe him­self lived into the 20th cen­tu­ry to expe­ri­ence the gold­en age of pup­pet ani­ma­tion, I feel cer­tain his artis­tic man­date would have com­pelled him to film a ver­sion of The Tale of the Fox. Alas, the lit­er­ary leg­end passed away in 1832, leav­ing the job, near­ly a cen­tu­ry lat­er, to Russ­ian ani­ma­tor Ladis­las Stare­vich (also spelled Wla­dys­law Starewicz).

Hav­ing pio­neered the form of pup­pet ani­ma­tion with his 1912 film The Beau­ti­ful Lukani­da, Stare­vich remains well-known among ani­ma­tion enthu­si­asts for shoot­ing his pic­tures with ani­mals play­ing the pro­tag­o­nists, or bugs, or seem­ing­ly what­ev­er he hap­pened to have at hand. The Tale of the Fox, by con­trast, pre­sent­ed him with a com­par­a­tive­ly vast set of resources. Pro­duced in Paris over eigh­teen months in 1929 and 1930, the 65-minute ani­mat­ed fea­ture, Stare­vich’s first and only the sixth ever made in the world at the time, tells the sto­ry of Rey­nard the Fox’s attempts to live his life of tom­fool­ery even as the lion king of this ani­mal king­dom strug­gles to bring him to jus­tice. When, sev­en years after com­plet­ing pho­tog­ra­phy, the film still lacked music, Ger­many’s Nation­al Social­ist gov­ern­ment, no doubt swollen with their ver­sion of Teu­ton­ic pride at see­ing an adap­ta­tion of an adap­ta­tion penned by a Ger­man icon, pro­vid­ed a score and arranged for a Berlin pre­miere. But try not to think about that. Con­cen­trate instead on the ani­ma­tion style used here by Stare­vich which, though he shot in stop-motion and used pup­pets, sure­ly resem­bles no stop-motion ani­ma­tion or pup­pet show you’ve ever seen.

via Bib­liok­lept

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Two Beau­ti­ful­ly-Craft­ed Russ­ian Ani­ma­tions of Chekhov’s Clas­sic Children’s Sto­ry “Kash­tan­ka”

18 Ani­ma­tions of Clas­sic Lit­er­ary Works: From Pla­to and Shake­speare, to Kaf­ka, Hem­ing­way and Gaiman

Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Mas­ter and Mar­gari­ta, Ani­mat­ed in Two Min­utes

The Mas­cot, Pio­neer­ing Stop Ani­ma­tion from Wla­dys­law Starow­icz

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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